While the Supreme Commander of the Sith Empire Darth Vader may have been vanquished by the Jedi, his helmet is probably going to be put to use in a future NASA Mars mission.
The American space agency which is planning a Mars mission in 2020 is now setting its eyes to bring back samples from the red planet back to Earth, according to international reports on Tuesday. According to reports, NASA is planning a mission to Mars 'ExoMars' which could launch in 2026 to land on Mars, collect samples and transport it back to Earth. NASA's upcoming Mars mission will launch in 2020 and is set to land in the Jezero crater in February 2021.
As per reports, NASA and ESA will collaborate on 'ExoMars' mission to design a spacecraft to land on Mars, a rover to select the samples, a "fetch rover" to pick up those samples, a rocket to launch them off the Red Planet, a capsule to bring them back to Earth. Scientists have explained that the fetch rover will collect the sample containers Mars 2020 has prepared. The rover will reportedly be smaller than that machine and Curiosity - NASA's current Mars rover.
The Star Wars angle comes in the return capsule which will transport the sample back to earth. According to reports, scientists are designing a return capsule that can safely carry as many as 30 rock samples and two air samples. For this purpose, "All of that fits into Darth Vader's helmet," stated Brian Muirhead - lead scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California at a presentation in Washington.
Scientists have explained the shape of the Supreme Commander's helmet is perfect to transport the samples. The 'Darth helmet' will reportedly be packed into a capsule for the long voyage after being sealed and sterilized. Muirhead has stated that the return vehicle will rely on electric propulsion to make its way to Earth, where it will eject the sample assembly in 2031.
As explained by NASA, the Mars 2020 rover is based on its predecessor 'Curiosity' which was launched in 2011. The car-sized rover which is about 10 feet long, 9 feet wide, and 7 feet tall weighs 1050 kgs, which is less than a compact car. NASA claims that the rover parts are similar to what any living creature would need to keep it "alive" and able to explore. The official launch window of the mission is July 17- August 5, 2020, from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The mission is expected to last for about 687 Earth days which is one Mars year.